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Material handling safety blitz yields scores of infractions


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February 5, 2015

From September 15 to October 26, 2014, Ontario’s Ministry of Labour inspectors conducted 841 visits to 701 workplaces and issued 3263 orders under the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) and its regulations. This included 130 stop work orders. Some of the workplaces were visited several times. On average, 4.65 orders were issued per workplace visit. Inspectors visited workplaces in various sectors, including construction sites. As of December 19, 2014, 75 per cent of the orders had been complied with.

The orders were issued for various violations under the:

Occupational Health and Safety Act

Regulations for Industrial Establishments

Occupational Health and Safety Awareness and Training Regulation

Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System, Regulation 860)

The top three, most frequently issued orders involved employers’ failure to:

  • maintain equipment, materials and protective devices in good condition
  • ensure that lifting devices are examined annually to determine their capability to lift their maximum load as rated
  • take reasonable precautions for the protection of workers

The goal of the blitz was to: ensure employers advise workers of hazards in the workplace; raise awareness of rights and responsibilities under the OHSA; encourage employers to identify and control hazards; address and remedy non-compliance with the OHSA and its regulations; deter non-compliant employers; enhance health and safety partnerships; and promote improved health and safety at work.

Click here to see the full report

In particular, the blitz targeted workplaces with a high incidence of lost-time injuries; not previously visited by the ministry; where complaints have been received; and where there is a history of non-compliance.

The inspectors focused on the following requirements:

  • Lift-trucks and other lifting devices: Inspectors checked that employers had lift-trucks and other lifting devices (including associated hardware and rigging equipment) rated for their loads and that they were well-maintained.
  • Workplace layout/design: Inspectors verified that employers were providing safe and appropriate access to work areas. They also checked that workers/pedestrians were not endangered by mobile equipment or the movement of materials at the workplace.
  • Manual handling procedures: Inspectors checked that employers had ensured workers performed tasks and interacted with their workplace in a manner to prevent musculoskeletal injuries and the risk of slips, trips and/or falls.
  • Mobile/transport equipment: Inspectors checked that employers had made sure equipment was appropriate for use, well-maintained and that safe practices were being followed (e.g. safe load securement procedures and workplace traffic management plans).
  • Storage systems: Inspectors checked that employers ensured materials were placed or stored in a manner that did not endanger workers, and that they could be removed or withdrawn without endangering workers’ safety. This included a focus on bulk, rack and automated or unitizing/palletizing equipment processes/practices.
  • Internal Responsibility System (IRS): Inspectors checked and evaluated workplaces’ IRS to confirm that required health and safety representatives or Joint Health and Safety Committees were in place, where appropriate, and were functioning as required by the OHSA. As well, they checked for policies that outlined the roles of workplace parties for ensuring the workplaces remain free of all hazards.
  • Worker training: Inspectors checked that employers were providing information and instruction to workers to perform assigned tasks.
  • Workplace supervision: Inspectors checked that supervision was provided to workers, as required by OHSA.

Inspection blitzes are part of the province’s Safe At Work Ontario compliance strategy. They are announced to the sector by the ministry in advance although individual workplaces to be visited by inspectors are not identified in advance. Results are posted on the ministry’s website. 

BACKGROUND

Workers are at risk of injuries such as musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) when handling, moving and storing materials in workplaces. In 2012, 39 per cent of all lost-time injuries involved MSDs. Incidents often involve being struck by or hitting objects and equipment. Being struck by or hitting objects and equipment accounted for more than 26 per cent of compensation claims from workers whose injuries resulted in them missing time at work. Together, these two types of injuries have consistently accounted for almost 70 per cent of all lost time at work.


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